So how do the pros make their campers?
It figures since I am planning to base my design closely off the Wedgetail Camper’s layout that I should look into how they are made & what they are made from.
The construction methods employed for the main framework on this camper is all welded aluminium square tube. According to their website, the base framework is made from 4 longitudinal 60 x 40 box section beams with cross bearers in between. The internal frames for the kitchen and seating, etc are also all aluminium welded tube.
Wedgetail Camper Lid [+]
The camper lid/fold over bed is made from fiberglass with a honeycomb core, there are also a few aluminium pieces in there as-well (I think there may also be some framing, in addition to the accent pieces).
Wedgetail Storage Pod [+]
The fold down storage pod/platform, by studying the photos, appears to be made of 40 x 40 box section (see pic). That unsupported area you see is where the shower base is (you can see the drain angles). This area is supported inside with a floating deck which obviously spans across to be supported by the framing underneath.
Tow Hitch Cargo Carrier
I had an idea one day to utilise our existing tow hitch to carry a small load (without towing a full trailer). Our tow bar is the receiver type which means it’s easy to slot things in and out. I had a look online and there were actually quite a few ‘cargo carriers’ out there already (in lots of different styles).
Turns out it’s legal too! Here in Victoria (and other states), you can have a protruding load that is up to 60% of your total wheelbase extending out from the center of the rear axle (look here for calculations). Just watch that your license plate & tail lights are still clearly visible. If you’re interested in getting one I would recommend HitchMate.
I knocked this one up in a few days which is all welded steel and can take my weight (90kg), even on the corners. The panels all slot in and can be stowed away flat against the shed wall. I added the lid a few months later which makes a great platform to stand on to access the roof bag.
Cargo Cage [+]
Cargo Cage with Lid + Awning Poles [+]
First things first:
What are campers made of?
Well all the resources I looked at suggest they can be made from all the usual materials:
- Wood – Pretty common among hard top slide-ons & caravans. Cheap for the DIYer.
- Fiberglass & Composite Panels – Used more and more these days – lightweight & strong. Composites are expensive & DIY would be a lot of work.
- Aluminium – The most common (at least in Australia), lightweight, no rust, but hard to weld.
- Steel – Would likely be the easiest (for me anyway), any cheap arc welder would be fine for the framework, but it’s heavy & can rust.
Wood Camper Construction
Each material will of course need an in-depth look into it’s specific benefits vs disadvantages, keep watching for posts regarding these materials.
Through all this, simplicity of the design and ease of development should be at the forefront. It will be a fine balance between strength, weight, cost, quality and effort.